5/22/2013 8:00 P.M. ET
Leyland looking for ways to snap Avila's slump
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland is trying to come up with any idea he can to help Alex Avila out of his season-long slump, even talking with the former All-Star catcher about what he and the coaching staff might be able to do.
Leyland's next idea might be to back him off from everyday play.
Though the Tigers had ace Justin Verlander on the mound, and left-handed hitters have fared better against Ubaldo Jimenez, Leyland rested Avila for Wednesday's series finale against the Indians. Brayan Pena, 4-for-5 off Jimenez entering the game, started instead, making his fourth start with Verlander.
Avila won't start Thursday's opener against the Twins with lefty Scott Diamond on the mound, either, making it back-to-back nights off. It's not a premeditated idea on Leyland's part to get him away from his struggles for a stretch, but it essentially amounts to a break.
"I did this with Pudge [Ivan Rodriguez] a few years back a bit toward the end there, played him and then sat him out, played him and sat him out," Leyland said before Wednesday's game. "He actually got going pretty good. He didn't particularly like it, but it actually worked pretty good. I'm not saying I'm exactly trying that with Alex, but I've got to do something. …
"Right now, you've got to kind of go with your gut and pick and choose. I do think, sometimes, maybe a couple days might be OK. I don't really know the answer. I don't think there's a magic formula."
Part of that mix comes naturally with the righty-lefty mix the Tigers encounter with starting pitchers. The fact that Pena is a switch-hitter gives Leyland a little more flexibility than a simple platoon.
Avila has to figure out something. Avila is hitless in his last 11 at-bats and is mired in a 1-for-21 slump over his past seven games. Leyland gave no indication that any roster move could be near. Quite the opposite, in fact. He reinforced Avila's status as their catcher. Everyday catcher, however, might be pushing it.
"I don't want to indicate that Alex isn't our catcher, because he is our catcher," Leyland said. "But somehow we've got to get him going. At some point, I have to do something. Sit him down for two days. Sit him down for three days. Go every other day for a while.
"I don't really have the formula just yet in my mind, but I don't want anybody to think that I haven't been thinking about it. I ask a lot of opinions of the coaching staff. I do a lot of soul searching at night, what's the best way maybe to bring this guy out of it."
Avila has taken extra batting practice as much as his catching demands allow. He has tried to avoid falling into the trap of thinking too much at the plate, keeping his approach simple.
"I've had some good at-bats and bad at-bats," Avila said. "It's just a matter of trying to have as many good at-bats as possible, to be as consistent with that as possible. I don't know what I'm going to end up with at the end of the season as far as my statistics, but one thing I can control is to do whatever I can to help the team win and keep trying to put consistent at-bats together. Whatever I end up at statistically, it is what it is."
As much help as the coaches try to offer, though, it's on Avila to figure something out. He told Leyland as much when they talked.
"My job as a player is to perform," Avila said. "Everything that they can do, obviously, you try to help me as much as possible, and then as player, especially up here, you have to be your own coach at times, as well. The bottom line is it's on me to be able to perform. That's it."
Hunter following Kemp's lead in tornado relief
CLEVELAND -- Torii Hunter is following Dodgers All-Star Matt Kemp's lead on tornado relief in Moore, Okla.
Hunter confirmed Wednesday that he plans on making a donation. He announced on Twitter late Tuesday night that he'll donate $1,000 for every home run he hits, but after feedback from some fans, decided to make a flat donation that isn't tied to statistics.
"I've only got one [home run]," Hunter said. "I usually hit mine in bunches. But I can give more."
The tweet came a day after Kemp, an Oklahoma native, said he'll be donating $1,000 for every home run he hits before the All-Star break toward tornado relief. Kemp soon upped his commitment, saying he also plans on a $250,000 donation.
"I was just doing it because of Matt," Hunter said. "Matt is one of my little brothers in the game. In the offseason, he comes and stays with me. We travel together. That's my little brother. So if he's doing that for his home state, it's something I want to do for him and the people of Oklahoma."
Hunter grew up next door to Oklahoma in Pine Bluff, Ark. He did not specify a dollar amount for his donation.
It's not the first time Hunter has stepped up for disaster relief. When he signed with the Tigers last November, he worked out a deal with new teammate Rick Porcello to acquire the number 48 in exchange for a donation to help victims of Hurricane Sandy in Porcello's native New Jersey.
Pitch sequence key to Scherzer's big night
CLEVELAND -- Nobody on the Tigers' roster has the language of pitcher-speak down like Max Scherzer, who talks regularly about executing pitches. After Tuesday's win over the Indians, however, he was talking about sequencing his pitches.
Scherzer had all four pitches going, he said. The key to his run of 22 consecutive batters retired was working with catcher Alex Avila to mix them up, not just to different hitters, but to the same hitters the second and third times they came up in the batting order.
"For me, you're just concentrating on which hitter's up and the sequencing you need to do -- what pitches you want to start him with and what pitches you want to finish him," Scherzer said. "You're constantly working with Alex, what his game plan is, what my game plan is, how we wanted to attack them.
"I felt like we did a good job of blending the two games together. There's times I trusted him and there's times I felt like I had the right pitch. And between the two of us, we were able to consistently throw the right pitch. When you have that type of execution, good things can happen."
Avila said he and Scherzer had maybe three occasions when they disagreed on an approach over the course of 118 pitches. Other than that, they had a very similar thought process, especially against sluggers Jason Giambi and Mark Reynolds.
"Throughout the game, when a starting pitcher faces a hitter two, three, maybe even four times, being able to throw a sequence of pitches that he hasn't seen [is important]," Avila said. "If you've gotten him out with something before, [the trick is] getting him out with something other than that, or maybe just starting him off with a different sequence. Normally, big league hitters, if you get them out the first or second time one way, they'll be looking for that the next time."
Scherzer has generally kept his pitches strong as a game goes on. The key Tuesday was being more deceptive. All seven of his strikeouts came among the final 12 batters he faced.